Two-person crew progress in Nebraska and New Mexico

January 26, 2024

In 2023, SMART-TD’s state legislative boards and our National Legislative Department made tremendous progress making two-person crews the law of the land in multiple states across the country. Less than a month into 2024, Nebraska and New Mexico are carrying this momentum into this year’s legislative sessions.

Both of these states put bills into play in last year’s sessions, and both saw some success. New Mexico and SLD Don Gallegos were successful not only in getting a 2PC bill through committee on the House side, but as we reported last year, Gallegos and his state legislative board were also able to get the bill passed by the New Mexico House of Representatives on the floor and had the bill sent to the state Senate. Unfortunately, it was met with enough hesitation that the bill stalled.

In Nebraska, their brand-new SLD Andy Foust off of BNSF’s property in Lincoln, saw his state’s 2PC bill get stonewalled in committee where he rallied more support than anticipated, but the bill never received a vote. In the process, Foust and his team made a positive impression on the legislators in Lincoln, and they spent time between legislative cycles fostering those relationships.

This year, the inroads made last year by both Brother Foust and Brother Gallegos are looking to pay off. In the very early stages of both states’ legislative process, there have been distinct signs that legislators have become more familiar with the need to establish a minimum crew size aboard trains.

In Nebraska, last year’s Transportation Committee Chairperson neglected to even put our bill to a vote in committee. This year’s bill was in the same committee and passed with an impressive 6-1 margin with a recommendation of passage by the full Legislature. One of the senators on the eight-member committee was vocal about her opposition to our bill until SMART-TD put out a Legislative Action Email Alert to our members of her district and they responded to it with enthusiasm.

The number of responses Sen. Carolyn Bosn received from our members/her constituents in Nebraska’s 25th District helped her remember that although BNSF and UP might provide campaign dollars there, SMART-TD members and the railroad families there are the ones who do the voting. The response from our members in Nebraska made Bosn think twice, and she ended up declaring “Present, Not Voting” rather than try to explain a “no” vote to Foust and our membership.

With Bosn opting not to vote in committee, the measure passed with a strong 6-1 vote. The rail safety bill, known as SB LB31, is now on its way to the floor of Nebraska’s full Legislature, where it awaits a vote and will hopefully make its way to Gov. Jim Pillen’s desk for a signature.

The bill has more than the impressive two 6-1 committee votes going for it. The bill is noted as a “Priority Legislation,” which means it is being fast-tracked to get a vote of the full Legislature. Along with its primary sponsor, state Sen. Mike Jacobson, Foust is proud to see that an additional 14 of the state’s legislators have signed on as co-sponsors. To say that some good work has been done to get a bill to this point that was not even given the courtesy of a committee vote in the last session is an understatement.

Moving ahead in New Mexico

In New Mexico, SLD Gallegos was successful last session in getting a 2PC freight train bill passed through their House of Representatives, but the clock ran out on the session while the bill was in the state Senate. 2024 is quickly becoming a very different story.

On January 23, Gallegos and SMART-TD’s State Legislative Board in New Mexico used the tracks laid last year to push this year’s version of their 2PC bill through the house at breakneck speed. The next committee hearing for the bill will be January 30 in the House Transportation, Public Works & Capital Improvements Committee where we hope to build on our momentum. For our members (especially LRs) attending the Regional Training Seminar in Albuquerque from March 5th through the 7th, it would be an excellent opportunity to get together with Brother Gallegos and the members of his state board to discuss their recent success and learn from the process they went through to get to this point.

Brothers Gallegos and Foust and the progress of the legislation they’ve been championing show that our organization is off and running to a great start.